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More Space for Reading, Studying and Teens Part of Baldwin Library's Early Renovation Plans

A Building Program, crafted by a joint committee of library board members and city commissioners in December, details plans to expand Birmingham's library by 9,000 square feet.

Plans for Baldwin Public Library's eventual renovation continue to move forward, as city leaders look to the public to help answer questions about what Birmingham's library should look like and how it will be used in the future.

Residents and users of Baldwin are invited to attend a community forum on the library's future, to be held at the library at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23.

In addition, a Request for Proposal (RFP) draft — which will solicit an architect to create conceptual drawings and determine cost estimates for the renovation project — is scheduled to be presented to the Birmingham City Commission in late February.

This RFP will be based on a new Building Program, a report approved by a joint committee of library board members and city commissioners in early December. This report not only details specific recommendations for the project, but speaks to how Baldwin will be used in the coming years.

Surveys say residents want more communal spaces at library

The last comprehensive renovation of Baldwin Public Library happened 30 years ago and estimated costs for another project — presented at the city's 2011 long-range planning session — could range between $3 million and $10 million.

In the spring, the library worked with the city to form a joint committee charged with investigating renovation plans and soliciting feedback from the communities Baldwin serves, including Birmingham, Beverly Hills and Bloomfield Hills.

Last summer, the library collected this feedback via a community survey and held several focus groups in June. Overall, after 663 surveys were completed, residents demanded more communal work spaces and a unified design for Baldwin.

"The one certain thing about the public library of the future is the uncertainty," the report reads. "While we can safely say that less space will be needed for collections and more will be needed for activities ... we cannot know for sure exactly what shape public library service will take 10 or 20 years from now."

Early plan doubles teen section, creates 'Information Commons'

Much of those early recommendations — including more communal space and less space for actual books — are reflected in the official Building Program, approved at a joint meeting of library board members and commissioners on Dec. 4.

The Building Program recommends adding almost 9,000 square feet of space to Baldwin, expanding the building from 40,174 to 49,015 square feet.

What will be added to the library? More study rooms for adults and children, the report says, better public service desks and workrooms, a wider range of places for readers to sit and more engaging spaces for children and teens.

The Youth Department alone is proposed to grow from 4,420 to 7,583 square feet, while the size of the teen area is expected to double.

"The growth is in the space library customers use in their individual and collective pursuits, the space needed for the staff to work efficiently, and the space the building needs to be a more enjoyable and functional environment," the report reads.

To be preserved is the grandeur of Baldwin's Grand Hall, where much of the fiction section and the library's couches can be found. Lower level meeting rooms are also expected to stay the same.

Meanwhile, things to change include relocating the computer instruction lab to a new "Information Commons" and consolidating office and administrative space. In favor of trends favoring mobile and laptop computing, the library won't be adding new desktop computers.

No new space will be dedicated to the library's hard copy collection, either — in fact, while the library will continue to add new materials, the library's total collection of books is expected to decrease by 10 percent.

The library also wants to consider adding two large, drive-up, curbside return boxes for books and media, while also making the library's entryway more inviting.

Additional 'wants' for Baldwin include cafe, bookshop

While not officially a part of the Building Program, the joint committee also outlined a number of additional "wants" that "have merit," the reports says, "but fell outside the committee's desired project scope."

These "wants" include adding a 500-square-foot cafe in the library, where patrons can grab a snack at three vending machines, as well as a 440-square-foot library shop selling used books and merchandise. The total number of "wants" would add an additional 4,075 square feet to the original plan.

Whether they're "wants" or part of the plan, the library continues to move forward. Library Director Doug Koschik plans to present the Building Program to the Birmingham City Commission during its long-range planning session this Saturday.

In addition, according to the minutes of the Library Board's December meeting, the RFP draft will be presented to the board at its Feb. 18 meeting, and then to the City Commission on Feb. 25.

Those looking to comment on the Building Program but unable to attend the Jan. 23 community forum may contact Koschik at doug.koschik@baldwinlib.org or at 248-554-4681.

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